Neither Mike Hull nor Bill O’Brien will deny it.
Hull, a redshirt junior linebacker and one of the leaders of Penn State’s defense, is playing hurt.
But that won’t stop him from being on the field. He’s waited too long for his liking to get back out there.
Hull injured his knee in the first quarter of Penn State’s season opening win against Syracuse, and did not play against Eastern Michigan or Kent State.
The linebacker tried to give it a go against Central Florida a few weeks back because, as Hull put it, it “tore” him up not playing. He recorded just four tackles in limited time against the Knights, but made his full return to the starting rotation against Indiana on Saturday.
“I’m about 90 or 95 percent. It is what it is,” Hull said. “It’s not one of those things that goes away overnight…I’m sure it’ll gradually get better.”
Senior linebacker and fellow leader of the defense Glenn Carson said it was good to see Hull return to action.
Hull tallied 10 tackles against the Hoosiers — just one less than his career-high — and half of a sack.
Even though he tied for the team-lead in tackles against Indiana, the Canonsburg, Pa. native’s performance wasn’t perfect.
There were instances where he was out of position, and, at times, it was obvious that his knee wasn’t completely healed.
But for Hull, who has taken part in two rehab sessions a day for the past five weeks, there are no excuses.
“Whenever I’m in a game, I’m expected to make plays,” Hull said. “Today I hurt my team a little bit so I just have to step up.”
And yet, O’Brien was clearly proud of how Hull performed.
O’Brien said after the game that it’s hard from field level to see first hand how individuals played, but noted he admires Hull for his toughness.
“He’s playing hurt. He’s got the thing wrapped up. Knee brace on. He’s a fantastic kid and a great example of what we’re all about. And he’ll continue to play hurt,” O’Brien said.
Hull, like the rest of the players, expressed remorse about losing to the Hoosiers and surrendering 44 points in the process.
But, Hull made it clear that he was finally happy to get out on the field and rejoin his teammates.
“Oh yeah,” Hull said when asked if he felt like a caged animal not playing. “I was waiting for that first game for a long time and it was like the ninth play of the game that I got hurt. So, for the last five weeks I’ve been kind of frustrated not being out there with the guys.”
Fortunately for Hull, that problem no longer exists.
John McGonigal can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @jmcgonigal.